California Pharmacy Icon David Adler Dies at 79

Kate Traynor Senior Writer, ASHP News Center Published: January 19, 2024

David Adler, founder of the PharmD program at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), died Nov. 4, 2023. He was 79 years old.

David Adler
David Adler

Two notable pharmacy school tributes — one published after his death and one when he was named the 2016 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year — chronicle Adler’s remarkable 45-year career at the University of California system.

The tributes honor Adler for establishing groundbreaking collaborative chronic disease management services, implementing the university system’s first satellite site for advanced pharmacy practice experiences, and teaching and guiding thousands of pharmacy students and residents.

He was also passionate about incorporating precepts of social justice and equity into pharmacy practice and patient care. As a student, Adler helped organize donated medications for San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury Free Medical Clinic. And as a practitioner, he obtained federal grant funding for a teaching and internship program to help refugee pharmacists from Vietnam obtain U.S. licensure. The university system credited the program with helping more than 100 participants pass their pharmacy licensure exam from 1982 to 1986.

Adler’s work with the Vietnamese community was recognized by the Vietnamese Pharmacists Association, which honored him with appreciation awards in 1985, 1997, and 2008. He received the Asian Heritage Society Award for Education in 2016.

Adler was active in his state and local pharmacy associations and in ASHP. He was president of the California Society of Health-System Pharmacists (CSHP) in 1983, represented California in ASHP’s House of Delegates, and served on the ASHP Board of Directors in 1988–1991.

“David Adler was a superb educator, clinician, and practitioner who exemplified how to give back to his community and to the profession,” said ASHP Chief Executive Officer Paul W. Abramowitz. “He was deeply committed to advancing pharmacy practice in ways that improved patients’ lives. David’s death is a huge loss to pharmacy.”

Brookie M. Best, dean and professor of clinical pharmacy and pediatrics at the UCSD Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, called Adler “a visionary and role model in clinical pharmacy, education, and social justice.”

“He established one of the first pharmacist-led and managed clinical anticoagulation practices in the nation,” Best said, describing the program as a model for emerging pharmacist-led clinical services. “He was instrumental in creating student and resident pharmacy education programs, culminating in his founding faculty and founding associate dean role in the formation, launch, and success of the UC San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.”

David Salomon Adler was born December 14, 1943, in Los Angeles, California, to Kurt Levy Adler of Einbeck, Germany, and Marianne (Salomon) Adler of Poznan, Poland. A lifelong Californian, Adler attended Morningside High School in Inglewood, where he participated in student government and was a member of the varsity swim and water polo teams.

Adler earned his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1966 and his PharmD degree from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), in 1970. He married Penny Jean Kossoris in June of that year.

After completing UCSF’s recently established pharmacy practice residency program in 1971, Adler joined the UCSF faculty as an assistant clinical professor and was soon appointed vice chair of UCSF’s clinical pharmacy division. He relocated to San Diego to establish advanced clinical practice sites for UCSF student pharmacists. The satellite program welcomed its first group of PharmD candidates in 1975.

In 2000, when the University of California governing board authorized the creation of the UCSD Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Adler was named the school’s founding associate dean of academic affairs. He remained at UCSD until his retirement in 2016.

Charles E. Daniels, clinical professor, associate dean, and chief pharmacy officer at the UCSD Skaggs School of Pharmacy, worked alongside Adler at the school for 15 years.

“He was a colleague and friend. He had an office next door to mine and regularly stopped to discuss pharmacy issues that were troubling him,” Daniels said. “David was a strong-minded and outspoken voice for patients, clinical pharmacy training, the expanded role of pharmacists, and health equity. He has my greatest respect for that commitment. He was very committed to the residents and students he taught. He will be missed.”

Adler’s accomplishments were widely recognized in his home state. He was selected as pharmacist of the year by the San Diego chapter of CSHP in 1982 and 1983 and by CSHP in 1987. In 1993, CSHP named Adler a Fellow and honored him with the Distinguished Service Award. Adler received awards for excellence in teaching from UCSF in 2000 and 2002 and was the 2016 recipient of the UCSF School of Pharmacy Distinguished Alumnus Award. The California Pharmacists Association inducted Adler into the California Pharmacy Hall of Fame in 2002.

Adler received numerous other awards during his long career and was highly respected by pharmacists throughout the state.

“He was a devoted pharmacy professional and a colleague who was easy to associate and work with,” said William E. Smith, retired pharmacy chief at Long Beach Memorial Hospital in California. Smith said Adler’s passion and clear thinking always shone during professional meetings and in his work as an educator.

He added that Adler was also known for his great sense of humor and his collection homemade neckties, which ranged from “very nice” to “wild and colorful.”

Adler is survived by his wife, Penny; daughters Michelle and Laura; son Darrell; daughter-in-law Ana Celia; and granddaughter Eleana. At the family’s request, those who wish to make a donation on Adler’s behalf may contribute to UCSD’s David and Penny Adler Endowed Scholarship Fund.

Posted January 19, 2024

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